Gunner Thoughts

You Get What You Earn

If you can’t deserve to win, maybe its not so bad to celebrate the wins you earn.

We all can accept that Arsenal’s performance against Leeds is unlikely to qualify for any Match of the Year awards. I don’t think Gooners are making any pretenses about it. We’ve seen dominant performances against Bournemouth, Fulham, Aston Villa, Brentford, and Tottenham, and strong performances against Leicester City, Manchester United, and Liverpool this year alone.

Arsenal fans don’t have the need to manufacture a belief that the win over Leeds United was sparkling in order to fulfill any beliefs surrounding the season as a whole. Tough matches happen, poorer performances will occur, and Arsenal will have to come together as a squad on those days and figure out how to win. With 9 wins out of 10 matches, they have shown both incredible signs of consistency and found ways to beat the man across from them, even on the days they “didn’t deserve to win”.

It’s an interesting phrase, and it’s one that gets used a lot in football conversations and match reflections. Deserved to win… deserved to win. I mean, there are of course the times it makes complete sense. “We had the ball 65% of the time, created 22 shots, scored 3. We deserved to win.” But there is a lot of grey areas in that phrase, and lots of matches that probably leave both sets of fans believing their side “deserved to win”.

Arsenal’s match against Leeds stands as a quintessential example. I doubt many Leeds fans went to sleep after the match or woke up yesterday believing their side “deserved to lose”, and with 16 shots, 1.86 expected goals, a missed penalty, an overturned goal that Arsenal were maybe fortunate on, and a controversial finish, they’d have as strong of a case as any Arsenal fans could make on the Gunners behalf if they tried to say Arsenal “deserved” three points.

It’s not as if every Arsenal fan even believes Arsenal deserved three points. Things kicked off in a small section of Twitter when people suggested they couldn’t even celebrate the points because the Arsenal performance didn’t deserve the reward.

Personally, I don’t align with this notion of not being able to celebrate the results. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that not every celebration needs to be the same. No one would expect you to have celebrated that win as much as the win over Spurs just two weeks ago. But it’s interesting that we as fans seem to return to this notion of deserving to win when sport seems to prove time and time again that it has no inclination of rewarding what you perceive your team worthy of deserving.

This idea had me reflect on what I felt about this latest Arsenal win, as an isolated victory rather than as one of nine to start the year, and why I felt proud of it, even in the face of a poor performance. What I came up with is the fact that most matches, and sport in general, seems not to reward what you deserve, but reward what you earn. And on a day when Arsenal maybe didn’t “deserve” to win, it’s hard to argue they didn’t “earn” their win.

You can get sarcastic and point to the fortunes of a missed penalty — one that Leeds likely shouldn’t have had — or the very 50-50 foul call that saw Bamford penalized for a push through Gabriel’s back, and you’d be right about those things being fortuitous. And if they simulated those significant moments over and over and over again, Arsenal likely find themselves level or behind in the game in a few. But on this day, those moments went their way and Arsenal gritted their way to a win, and I can’t believe anyone could say they didn’t earn it.

To me, earning a win is looking at the match in hand, the man across from you, the flow of the game and recognizing what it’s going to take for you to come out ahead. It’s grafting for the full match, putting in the work, and often putting your body on the line the keep your opponent out of the goal. It’s seizing your one moment and snatching the chance from your opponent’s mistake. It’s Ramsdale putting his “nuts” on the line and making the save at his own peril. And maybe, just maybe, that’s a good way to look at football results.

This doesn’t have to get reductive and suggest that any time a team has won, they earned it. There are games when the margins are so wide or there is so little quality play on display that, frankly, neither team deserves or earns anything.

In a league that continues to prove that every match is one that’s hard fought and every point carries immense value, you can’t expect your team to “deserve” every win. But maybe we can celebrate and value those that they earn.

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